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Economist rules out ‘stagflation’ and persistent price pressures


Gas prices are seen after U.S. consumer prices surged in April, with a measure of underlying inflation blowing past the Federal Reserve’s 2% target, in Beverly Hills, California, June 2, 2021.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Inflation expectations are still being driven by a “temporary spate of supply issues” and there is no sign of continued upward pressure on prices, according to veteran economist Carl Weinberg.

Stock markets around the world were rocked Tuesday morning by an increase in bond yields. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield reached a peak of 1.567%.

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Along with concern over the U.S. debt ceiling debate in Washington, investors are also concerned about rising consumer prices. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday Reopening pressures, supply chain problems and inflation can lead to higher inflation than we expect.

Weinberg spoke on Wednesday to CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe. The chief economist at High Frequency Economics said that the current global shortage of semiconductors and bottlenecks at ports, as well as Covid-19 impediments, were “temporary supply problems” and not systemic inflationary forces.

Weinberg explained that inflation is a process, not a single-time increase in prices. This is exactly what Weinberg is saying.

“We’re seeing an adjustment to new temporary realities on the supply side but we’re not seeing the stagflation process that we saw in the 1970s recurring again.”

Stagflation, which refers to an era in which unemployment is constant high and inflation remains high (as it was initially identified in the 1970s). In such a scenario, economic policymakers face the problem of increasing unemployment by trying to reduce inflation.

Weinberg indicated that there was no basis to believe such an outcome, and said: “This isn’t 1973.”

Weinberg acknowledged that some investors believe that inflation will continue to rise, driving up bond yields. However, Weinberg said that other factors are keeping the U.S. economic imbalanced. “Not least, Covid.”

The problem of Americans not getting vaccinated will remain a major issue and brake to the economy for many years. He stated that the chip problem does not have a quick solution, and the supply problems at the port do not offer a long-term solution.

He said that the Fed was not responsible for this and that supply and demand would rebalance, meaning that prices will cease rising after a “certain point”.

Weinberg explained that “we’re going through a very rough time right now” because the Fed is reopening the economy at a speed never before experienced, after a close like we have never seen. Weinberg also stated, “We are just getting some unexpected bumps along our way.”

It’s not clear though that it can all be summed up to a story that states that, beyond immediate reopenings, we will see increased prices.